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Top 10 Reasons for Boating Accidents

26 December 2013 in News

Watercraft season is here ... so get your boat out of storage or the shop, check your safety equipment and make sure your plug is in.

A day on the water is one of the best ways to escape the summer heat. But all fun and play can make for a dangerous day on the water if you don’t keep safety in mind. Avoid being a statistic this year: Know the top 10 causes of accidents on the water.

#1 Operator Inexperience

Operator inexperience is the leading cause of boat accidents nationwide, and has been for 15 years. Because of this, the Game and Fish Department recommends taking a boating education class, though it is not required for operating a watercraft in some states. More than 1,000 people take the department’s course every year. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons also provide approved classes.

Boating laws and regulations, navigation rules, knot tying, trailering and what to do in a weather-related emergency are topics covered in the course. Taking the course may allow you to legally operate your watercraft in a state that requires boaters to complete boating education. The class provides the knowledge needed to have a safe, enjoyable time on the water, and may reduce your odds of getting into an accident.

#2 Operator Inattention

A lot of things on the water compete for one’s attention. But don’t let the dream of landing that next big largemouth bass or the possibility of making friends with the boat full of beautiful people next to you become a distraction — pay attention to what matters. Remember, boats do not have brakes. Water adds an element of unpredictability when you need to react quickly. Operator inattention has been the No. 2 cause of boat accidents for the past 15 years.

#3 Passenger/Skier Behavior

The operator of the watercraft is responsible for all passengers. Keep them seated while underway, and don’t let them obstruct your view. If your passengers’ inappropriate actions get you pulled over, you still get the ticket. That can make the rest of the day a little uncomfortable for everyone aboard. And don’t tow a skier who wants to ride in a reckless manner. This can get you both in trouble and cause accidents. When pulling a skier, a designated observer must be in the boat. You also must display a 12-inch by 12-inch red or orange flag while a skier is in the water.

#4 Weather

Mother Nature has moments of unpredictability. When she does, remember never to boat beyond your own abilities or those of your watercraft. Before you go, check your safety equipment, listen to the forecast and create a float plan that details where and when you will be boating. Keep in mind that high winds can make waters very treacherous.

#5 Equipment Failure

Like it or not, regular maintenance is part of owning a watercraft. Your boat is an investment worth protecting, so stay away from taking shortcuts that may cost you more in the long run. Proper maintenance also helps protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning (see “Carbon Monoxide, A Silent Killer,” below ). If there is a chance you’ll still be out after the sun goes down, check that your navigational lights work before leaving the dock or slip.

#6 Reckless Operation

The following activities are considered reckless and should be avoided: allowing a passenger to ride on the bow, transom or gunwales of your watercraft while it is underway; intentionally splashing other watercraft; jumping a wake in the vicinity of another watercraft while on a personal watercraft. Take a moment to observe how boaters around you are operating their vessels. If you’re not in the norm, you may be operating recklessly or negligently. At all times, a wise boater maintains a safe reaction interval from other boaters.

#7 Failure to Yield

Whether operators do not understand navigational rules, or just let their egos collide (moments before their boats do), failure to yield causes crashes. Taking a boating education class and being alert while on the water can lower your chances of run-ins with other boats. All boaters need to know the meaning and implication of “stand on” and “give way.”

#8 (Tie) Congested Waters and Hazardous Waters

If your schedule allows, boat during the week. It shouldn’t be a surprise that most accidents occur on Saturdays and Sundays. Be extra-diligent on busy holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. And don’t forget about spring break, which typically takes place during the month of March. The numerous colleges and universities taking breaks at different times can make most of the month noticeably busier.

Hazardous?Waters Sections of water with strong currents and turbid areas constitute hazardous waters. Operators of smaller watercraft, such as rafts or canoes, along the Colorado River are often attracted to these waters by the excitement and risk, underestimating the hazards. Consider a guided tour by a professional if you don’t have the experience.

#9 (Tie) Excessive Speed and Alcohol Use

Excessive?Speed Boats are bigger and faster than ever. Just because your watercraft can go 70-plus mph doesn’t mean it should be operated that fast. Slowing down increases your odds of seeing people and objects in the water, sandbars and other hazards. It also increases your general awareness of what’s going on around you. Many waters provide great wildlife viewing opportunities, but only if you slow down to appreciate them.

Alcohol?Use When it comes to alcohol consumption, an operator on the water must obey the same laws as a driver behind the wheel of a car on the roadway. You cannot be impaired to the slightest degree or have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding 0.08. That means if you can feel the effects of alcohol at all and choose to operate, you’re breaking the law and endangering the lives of your passengers and fellow boaters. If you’ve had too many, designate another operator. Alcohol may not be the No. 1 cause of accidents, but it was involved in 50 percent of all fatalities on the water in Arizona last year.

#10 Overloading

Check the manufacturer’s capacity plate for the maximum weight or number of individuals your vessel can safely carry on board. Disregarding this requirement can have serious secondary consequences. Having more people on board during an accident can lead to more injuries or deaths, putting pressure on limited rescue and law enforcement resources. It can
turn an accident scene into a triage situation. In my experience, it is rare that
there are enough lifejackets aboard overcrowded vessels.

There you have it — a top 10 list even David Letterman wouldn’t find funny. Keep in mind that most accidents are caused by a combination of the factors listed, and addressing one while ignoring others isn’t enough. But now that you’re aware of the causes, you’re that much closer to enjoying a safe, accident-free watercraft season. 

Sourced from http://www.azgfd.gov/i_e/pubs/Top10Causes.shtml

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